- I don’t have a book.
- I can’t find my book.
- I don’t like my book.
- I have to go to the bathroom.
The hard reality of the situation is reluctant readers are the ones who need to read the most because very often they are reluctant because they are struggling. But we ask, “How? How do I get them to read more?”
What we’ve got here is reluctant reader 911 and what this calls for is:
Reluctant Reader Triage
- Be sure that somewhere in your room you have a bin of books designated for each of your reluctant readers. Instead of allowing these readers to return to your bookshelves on a daily basis, allow them one day to gather several titles that they think they might be interested in. Guide their choices and encourage them to put in picture books, comic books, non-fiction books and magazines. Be sure these collections contain no less than ten different titles. Forcing students who make a sport out of avoiding reading to take time to thoughtfully consider their interests helps to eliminate the “book” problems often faced by reluctant readers.
- Build in breaks. Nothing is more daunting to a child who knows that they are going to have to spend the next thirty minutes doing the very thing that they hate most. If you want to build stamina and commitment to reading, allow your reluctant readers to use a sand timer to help them measure reasonable chunks of reading time. When the timer runs out, allow them to get up and take a quick walk to the water fountain or stand up and stretch and then return to their reading. Even dedicated and sophisticated readers glance up from the page from time to time. Built in breaks makes the marathon seem do-able. And remember, for a reluctant reader, reading is a marathon.
- Validate their feelings. As teachers, we are very often cheerleaders for reading. We say things like, “What do you mean you don’t want to read? Reading is great!” And granted, we genuinely believe this, however, for the child who is reluctant, it’s merely a reminder of yet one more failing. Instead of coaxing, simply say, “Yep, I know how hard it is to do something you don’t want to do. When I don’t want to do something, I figure out a plan to make it do-able. Let’s figure out together what might work for you.”
And what might work for these readers might just be one of these suggestions or it may be another carefully mapped out intervention. The important thing to remember is this: The needs of the reluctant reader are critical. More pages, more often equals more improvement. Swift and thoughtful response could mean the difference between reading life and death.